The organizers of Auction Napa Valley aren’t losing sleep over the Naples Winter Wine Festival’s plunge. The Florida auction, which has become the world’s most successful wine fundraiser, drew $5 million in January, a plummet from last year’s take of $14 million.
Terry Hal1, communications director of the Napa Valley Vintners, doesn’t expect the bidders to donate more than the $10.3 million contributed last year. “A record breaker in income? Not a chance.” But Hall said that doesn’t concern vintners because of their “5 x 5 Community Promise.” In 2007 the vintners made a $25 million pledge to the community that for the next five years it would distribute a minimum of $5 million a year to the charities.
“Remember we have been at war, teetering on recession for the past few years already, so our board had great foresight in creating this strategy,” he said.
This year the auction is forgoing a headliner, but Hall said waiving a celebrity host is not an attempt to scale back. “It was decided late last summer before all the brew ha with the economy to go a different direction this year and have more vintner involvement.”
Last year Jay Leno was the headliner, but Hall wouldn’t disclose how much Leno charged other than to say “he worked for a reduced rate as a favor to the auction.”
Hall said organizers worked hard to cut costs on printed materials “to try to capture more donations for goods and services, but we do this every year to try to bring out as much to charities as possible.”
One new cost-saving, energy-efficient gesture this year is to recycle the wooden paddles left behind at the auction.
As for Naples’ $9 million big dip from last year’s take, Hall said the auction still earned $5 million for charities and organizers shouldn’t be discouraged. “It’s not a competition. The backbone of the Naples event, as well as nearly every other charity wine event in the U.S. is provided by the wines from the vintners of the Napa Valley.”
Organizers in Naples and Napa realize even big bidders feel the pinch, Hall said. “If you are not affected by this economy you live in denial.”